The Canadian military has stopped releasing injured soldiers whose pension and financial paperwork isn’t complete, an important step toward making the transition between uniform and civilian life easier.
Lt.-Gen. Chuck Lamarre, the newly appointed chief of military personnel, said the goal is to expand the policy for all members.
Throughout the winter, CBC News reported on cases where retired soldiers, sailors and aircrew waited months for their military pensions to kick in, including a single mother who was evicted when she couldn’t pay her rent.
Lamarre said an order was recently issued requiring that Joint Personnel Support Units (JPSUs) across the country, which serve ill and injured soldiers, not release individuals whose paperwork isn’t complete.
“We will hold them within the JPSU until all of that pension administration has been done and that when these people transition out, within 30 days, they will receive their first pension [cheque],” said Lamarre, who wasn’t clear about when the measure will be extended to those who aren’t injured.
Backlog of cases
The delay in getting pension cheques into the hands of retiring soldiers, roughly 5,000 per year, has been a major headache at National Defence for years.
At one point last year, there was a backlog of 13,000 cases, which the department has said it’s whittling down and expects to eliminate by the end of the year.
The administration of the system was handed over to the Department of Public Services and Procurement, which Lamarre said has been delivering payments within 30 days in 96 per cent of the cases.
(According to officials, that delivery timeline depends on the required paperwork being filled out.)
When he appeared before a Senate committee last week, the country’s top military commander, Gen. Jonathan Vance, alluded to the new release policy for injured soldiers, but indicated he was still searching for an overall solution.
“I would like to find a way to ensure — positively, no matter how complex your case is — that you don’t take this uniform off until your pension cheque is ready,” he said. “It’s going to take some work. All things sound simple when you’re a critic, but when you’re actually trying to do it, things are challenging.”
When questioned about the pension delays last winter, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan blamed staffing cuts at the department under the previous Conservative government for creating the backlog.
But the problem is more complex than that, according to internal Defence Department documents obtained by CBC News.
Some soldiers have mixed service between regular and reserve forces, which requires a more detailed pension calculation. Medical releases add another layer of complexity.
Defence sources say one solution being examined involves taking an individual a month before they retire, freezing them in an administrative capacity, and doing a financial analysis that will allow the member to walk out the door with a…